Japanese on YouTube – A Great Way To Improve?

YouTube is a technology that has forever changed the world. The last time I heard the statistic, it was that 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute!

And some of those hours are either devoted to teaching you Japanese, or they are completely in Japanese. The Japanese on YouTube is a great resource to take advantage of!

But there’s only one problem: It’s easy to get lost!

There is a sea of videos to swim through! So how should you navigate these uncharted waters in order to thrive (and survive)?

Well, I think there are a couple of ways.

You Can Find Videos That Teach Japanese

The most obvious way to use YouTube is to search it for people who teach you Japanese. This can be pretty much anyone from around the world as there is no geographical restriction.

There are tons of natives and non-natives that share what they know and provide their own spin on things.

What I recommend is that, if you are already using a particular course or book for your studies, then stick with it as your primary study method.

Then you can use YouTube to look up anything that you feel you still don’t quite grasp. Sometimes another person’s viewpoint on a particular grammar pattern can be exactly what you need in order to understand it yourself.

But if you don’t have a core study plan already in place, then you can use YouTube to start your journey and progress through the beginner stages of it.

I would recommend that you find someone whose style you like, and simply go through all of their videos in whatever order they’ve laid out.

But it doesn’t have to be Japanese specific. You can also find out about language learning techniques from people who are involved with German, Spanish, or any of them really.

Plus there are tons of educational videos that don’t talk about languages specifically, but instead focus on just “how the human brain learns.”

All of these ideas and methods can be learned from YouTube and then applied to your own studies.

Be sure to take lots of notes!

You Can Find Videos That Are Completely IN Japanese

Check out SANNINSHOW on YouTube here!

If you’re at an intermediate level with the language, then perhaps it’s time to spend more time with it as part of an immersive experience.

Many of the larger Japanese channels will provide Closed Captioning (CC) that will show you the dialog taking place in the video.

Full Japanese subtitles, here we come!

This is a great way to help practice your reading skills while listening to natural conversations.

The worst thing is to be bored with what’s going on, so I recommend that you look for the types of videos that you typically watch in your native language, but this time you simply do them in Japanese.

So for example, if there’s a video game you’re thinking of checking out, try looking for either a review of it or a play through from a Japanese YouTuber.

You’ll probably need to type the name of whatever you’re looking for in Japanese, so be sure to ask yourself the question:

“If I was a Japanese person looking for this type of video, how would I type it into that search bar?”

This works really well since you don’t have to switch between different versions of the same website when you want to look for things in different languages… I’m looking at you, AMAZON!

In addition to that, there are a TON of Japanese shows on YouTube that you can watch for your viewing pleasure.

You’d be surprised how much anime you can watch on YouTube. In fact, this used to be the only way that I would watch anime, back when I was a broke college student.

I don’t know how legal some of it is… but welcome to The Internet, amirite?!

The Advantages of Learning Through YouTube

There are a couple of things that I think are truly exceptional about using YouTube to learn Japanese.

The first is the sheer amount of natural Japanese that you get to listen to from native speakers.

This is something that people could only have dreamed about twenty years ago when they were learning the language.

And you get to use it for free!

What’s also nice about learning through videos is that you can use your eyes to see what is going on in the environment, in order to increase your comprehension of what’s being said.

This is something that kind of blew my mind when I saw Krashin do a short lesson completely in German, and through the simple use of gestures was able to convey the meaning behind the words with ease.

If you only hear the words, then you probably won’t comprehend them without understanding close to 90% of the surrounding vocabulary.

But when you can match actions with words, you can then make a pretty educated guess about what those words mean.

This is akin to how babies learn their first language – by using as many cues as possible!

The Disadvantages of Learning Through YouTube

Of course, nothing is perfect and there are a few drawbacks that you should at least be aware of when going onto YouTube.

One of the things is that videos tend to be random. The creators of those videos will typically talk about whatever is on their mind at the time, which means that you will learn some interesting things, but as a comprehensive course, you’re probably going to need to go somewhere else.

Even when a person has created an online course on YouTube, it can be a little hard to navigate through the videos in a systematic way due to the website’s user interface.

In addition to that, since anyone can make videos and then upload them, the quality isn’t always there.

It takes a while to get good at anything, be it a foreign language or making videos.

So how do you know if the information someone gives is good? There are usually two ways:

  1. Do it yourself and see if it works.
  2. Look at the feedback from other people who have done it.

It usually comes down to a trust thing. But once you are satisfied that a person is pretty good at their topic, you can go full speed ahead and follow their advice.

But even when they ARE good, the manner in which they teach might not work very well with your personality and learning style, so then you still gotta’ look for more.

But that’s something you’ll encounter everywhere. It’s not limited to just YouTube teachers.

Another thing is that, there’s not a lot of natural involvement on your side of things when you learn through video.

Since it’s presented in the same format as TV, it puts you the learner into a passive state while they take in the information.

So you may spend a lot of time “learning” things about Japanese and feel pretty good about it, but when it comes time for you to produce Japanese yourself, be it in written or verbal form, the skills needed to do so won’t necessarily be there.

As simple as it sounds, you have to speak (or write) Japanese to get really good at speaking (writing) Japanese.

So having a large amount of input is good and necessary, but it’s not enough. At some point you have to get on the bike yourself (so to speak) and try to ride it down the hill.

“And don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment, etc.” –Things YouTubers Say

Since YouTube is free, there’s really no risk of anything bad happening if you use it and end up not getting a lot of value from it.

Although I supposed that you might waste some time that could have been better spent learning through an alternative medium.

Still, I think the biggest advantage is having access to lots of native Japanese audio.

Try and find a way that works best for you with YouTube so that you can at least work on improving your listening comprehension.

What do you think? What’s the best part about learning Japanese through YouTube?


    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey thanks! I try to do things that are better presented in video format, compared to text like this website. So a lot of the content ends up being different.

      But I’d also like to take a bunch of the ideas I talk about on Japanese Tactics and put them onto YouTube for new people to check out.

  • Kim

    It’s pretty amazing just how much you can learn on YouTube. I think it’s especially useful being able to listen to a person explaining a process while you watch them go through it at the same time. For those who are brand new to learning Japanese, what videos would you recommend they start watching?

    • Nick Hoyt

      Well I guess it kind of depends on what you’re looking to get from it. If you are totally new, then YouTube might not be the best place since it’s rather random in its information. At least, I personally am not aware of a good course that goes from total newbie to intermediate level with the Japanese language.

      I would recommend the totally new person start with a good course on Japanese, and then use YouTube to fill in the gaps on their education.

      This is because there are lots of fantastic videos that talk about very specific topics like the writing system, pitch accent, the culture, and much more.

      Although I think my favorite thing when it comes to YouTube is watching videos that are made by Japanese people, for Japanese people. This is an incredibly powerful way to immerse yourself in the language on the kinds of things that you enjoy most.

      I personally watch Let’s Play videos for video games, Japanese commercials, and anime on YouTube when I want to get some listening practice in.

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